Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Condolence to Cambodia

I waited for a few hours, hoping Wisma Putra to issue an official statement of condolence to the people of Cambodia for the demise of their former leader Norodom Sihanouk.

I guess Anifah Aman was too busy in Manila, and at home.

However, let me express my deepest condolence to my friends at the Cambodian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, the Cambodians in Malaysia and in the Kingdom for the big loss.

The former king, who remained an influential figure through a tumultuous five decades of war, genocide and upheaval, died in Beijing at the age of 89 early yesterday. Sihanouk will be remembered as perhaps the most adaptable king in modern history.

Reigning over the country during its most turbulent period, Sihanouk witnessed its political transition from an absolute monarchy to a fledgling democracy.

A sharp wit and flamboyant style were the French-educated king's weapons in the struggle to find accommodation with colonial France. He then helped forge a bloodless transition to independence in 1953, going on to make a stand against imperialism by forging alliances with newly independent countries throughout the world.

A confirmed nationalist, Sihanouk tried but failed to steer Cambodia away from the Cold War rivalry that was dividing Southeast Asia in the 1960s and '70s, taking a neutral stance. When his country was invited by Thailand to become a founding member of Asean in 1967, he countered that Asean was an imperial tool. Ever the francophile, he also asked that the new organisation use French as its working language. The request was denied.

During the Cold War, Sihanouk was credited with modernising his country's education system and re-establishing ties with the US and Europe, though he was determined that Cambodia be seen as independent and non-aligned.

He was one of Southeast Asia's main players during the so-called Vietnam War, which spilled into Cambodia with devastating effect and eventually helped bring Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge to power. As he struggled to control a changing political scene, Sihanouk held numerous posts, including prime minister, president and leader of various governments in exile.

During the Cambodian civil war he backed the anti-Vietnamese coalition comprising the Khmer Rouge, his son Prince Norodom Ranariddh and former premier Son Sann.

For 13 years they fought alongside Asean to expel foreign troops occupying Cambodia. After striking an ill-fated deal with the Khmer Rouge, the exiled Sihanouk returned to Cambodia as head of state, but he remained confined to the palace for most of the four years of Khmer Rouge rule, when an estimated 1.7 million people died.

Sihanouk later condemned the Khmer Rouge for the genocide, which claimed the lives of several of his own children.

For years he shuttled back and forth between Cambodia and Thailand, working behind the scenes to bring a diplomatic solution to the conflict. Sihanouk's mercurial character was ever-present at the negotiation table and he was a pivotal figure in talks that eventually brought peace in 1991. He was restored as the constitutional monarch following UN-sanctioned elections.

When I visited Phnom Penh in 1994, I had a close encounter with him but was not allowed an interview. He was not well at that particular time.

Sihanouk is a true nationalist, to me...

7 comments:

old jaguar said...

he is another nelson mandela, i suppose.

we dont have one in malaysia... dr mahathir is close...

tunku abdul rahman, YES!

frequent traveller said...

condolence to the peoples of cambodia.

i like the country...

Anonymous said...

may he rest in peace.

a good leader is blessed, a bad one is cursed till death!

kong kali kong said...

our wisma putra is always late at issuing statements and giving response to any world issue.

perhaps we should get a new foreign minister after the general election.

fuuuhhhhh!!!!

Anonymous said...

RAJA NORODOM SIHANOUK BAGAIKAN 'TUHAN' KEPADA RAKYAT BAGINDA. BILA BERKATA SUARA BAGINDA PERLAHAN SAHAJA, SUKA MENYELIT JENAKA DAN SENTIASA TERSENYUM MESKI SAKIT BERTARUNG KANSER.

DEMI RAKYATNYA...BAGINDA SANGGUP MENJADI RAJA TANPA KUASA.

MENGHADIRI BEBERAPA MAJLIS RASMI DAN LAWATAN BAGINDA KE PEDALAMAN KEMBOJA ADALAH KENANGAN INDAH SAYA.

~ JAMILAH TAIB.

penangan said...

salam tuan,

kita melihat sihanouk sebagai seorang pejuang sejati. beliau adalah antara beberapa orang saja di dunia, termasuklah nelson mandela.

kampuchea memang bangga memiliki seorang putera yang tiada tolok bandingnya ini walaupun hidupnya penuh dengan liku-liku.

kepada rakyat kampuchea, kita ucapkan takziah dan turut merasakan kehilangannya.

Anonymous said...

always late in our response, similar to that when israel ransacked gaza.

we usually would like to wait for others to response first...

right?